United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION
R. Underhill, United States District Judge
March 7, 2018, Jerome Riddick, currently confined in a
Connecticut Department of Correction facility, brought a
civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
five employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction
(“DOC”): Commissioner Scott Semple, District
Administrator Angel Quiros, Disciplinary Hearing Officer
Nicole Prior, Captain Gregorio Robles, and Counselor
Supervisor Canon. I interpreted the complaint to assert
claims of First Amendment retaliation and violations of
Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights, neither
of which were factually supported by the allegations. Initial
Review Order, Doc. No. 16 at 4-8. Thus, I dismissed the
complaint without prejudice but permitted Riddick an
opportunity to file an amended complaint alleging facts
showing that the defendants' actions were motivated by
retaliation and/or the specific punishment he received as a
result of the disciplinary report that he claimed violated
procedural due process. Id. at 8.
13, 2018, Riddick filed a Motion for Reconsideration
regarding the Initial Review Order. Mot. for Recons., Doc.
No. 18. Two days later, on June 15, 2018, he filed the
instant motion for reconsideration of the Initial Review
Order. Mot. for Recons., Doc. No. 19. He then filed a Motion
to Withdraw the original Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. No.
18), alleging that he filed it in error. Mot. to Withdraw,
Doc. No. 20. Riddick's Motion to Withdraw (Doc. No. 20)
is GRANTED, and his first-filed Motion for
Reconsideration (Doc. No. 18) is accordingly DENIED
operative Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. No. 19), Riddick
states that he is abandoning his retaliation and procedural
due process claims and he argues that I overlooked his
freestanding First Amendment claim challenging the DOC
Administrative Directive 9.5 as unconstitutionally vague and
overbroad. For the following reasons, his Motion for
Reconsideration (Doc. No. 19) is DENIED.
stated in my Initial Review Order, Riddick alleged the
following facts in his complaint against the defendants:
March 30, 2017, Supervisor Canon was reviewing a Level-2
grievance appeal submitted by Riddick. Compl. ¶ 10. In
that appeal, Riddick wrote that “LT Congelos should be
restrained from harassing me the way he is, either you do it
or I will.” Id. at ¶ 11. In responding to
the appeal, Canon wrote that Riddick's statement was
“perceived to be a threat against Lieutenant Congelos
who is currently assigned to Northern C.I.”
Id. at ¶ 12. Thereafter, Canon filed a
disciplinary report against Riddick for threatening Congelos.
Id. DOC Administrative Directive 9.5, § 12EE
defines threats as “verbal or written statements or . .
. physical conduct which causes or is intended to cause fear
in any person.” On May 3, 2017, Disciplinary Hearing
Officer Prior found Riddick guilty of the charge and imposed
a sanction of fifteen days of punitive segregation.
Id. at ¶ 13. District Administrator Quiros
later upheld Canon's and Prior's decisions.
Id. at ¶ 15.
protested the guilty finding and the manner in which the
disciplinary report was issued and decided. See
Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. He contended that he was punished
solely based on the content of his speech, which was
“too vague and ambiguous to constitute a true
threat.” Id. at ¶ 22. Riddick argued
that, prior to finding him guilty of the charge and imposing
punishment, Quiros, Prior, and Canon never presented any
evidence showing that the statement in his grievance appeal
was a true threat. Id. at ¶¶ 17, 23.
April 26, 2017 and May 15, 2017, Captain Robles issued two
more disciplinary reports against Riddick for making threats
against Commissioner Semple in letters he wrote to him.
Compl. ¶ 25. In one of those letters to Semple, Riddick
wrote that he would “make an example and kill”
any cellmate with whom he was paired if not a family member.
See Pl.'s Ex. 3, Doc. No. 1 at 38. In another
letter, Riddick wrote that he was going to assault
correctional staff, that, when he leaves the prison, he
“would like to kill [him] a C/O to get [his] point
across, ” and “that [he] will come back one day
or night and sniper rifle ya'll off one by one, or with a
submachine gun and slaughter the ones I can.” Doc. No.
1 at 40, 45.
claimed in his disciplinary reports that the letters to
Semple were “Inmate Requests, ” but Riddick
argued that they were privileged communications to Semple
and, therefore, “constitutionally protected
conduct.” Compl. ¶¶ 26-29. Riddick contends
that, pursuant to the Regulations of Connecticut State
Agencies § 18-81-28(e)(5), “any written
correspondence addressed to . . . [t]he Commissioner of
Correction” constitutes a privileged communication and
DOC's Administrative Directives “do not authorize
[prison officials] to write tickets or [disciplinary reports]
in connection [with an inmate's] outgoing privileged[d]
correspondence.” See Compl. ¶¶ 28,
30; Pl.'s Ex. 1, Doc. No. 1 at 12.
alleges that the defendants continue to punish him for making
threats under their unconstitutionally vague and overbroad
definition of “threats” without any evidence that
Riddick's statements are indeed “true
threats” in the legal sense. See Compl.
¶¶ 33-36. He claims that the defendants are,
therefore, punishing him for engaging in
“constitutionally protected conduct.” See
Id. at ¶ 35.
Initial Review Order, I interpreted Riddick's complaint
as raising a claim that the defendants retaliated against him
for filing his Level-2 grievance against Congelos and his
letters to Semple, in violation of his First Amendment right
to free speech and a claim that the disciplinary reports he
received for threatening DOC officials and subsequent
findings of guilt violated his right to procedural due
process. Riddick now “abandons” those claims but
argues that I overlooked a freestanding First Amendment
challenge to the language of DOC Administrative Directive
9.5, § 12EE, which he asserts is vague and overbroad.
Mot. for Recons. at 1.
“[t]he vagueness doctrine is a component of the right
to due process.” Farrell v. Burke, 449 F.3d
470 (2d Cir. 2006); see also Richard v. Leclaire,
2017 WL 9511181, at *15 (N.D.N.Y. Jul. 10, 2017) (“It
is a basic principle of due process that an enactment is void
for vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly
defined”) (quoting Grayned v. City of
Rockland, 408 U.S. 104, 108 (1972)). A prison policy or
directive may be unconstitutionally vague “if persons
of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning
and differ as to its application, or if it fails to give a
person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of conduct
proscribed or required by the regulation and encourages
arbitrary and erratic behavior on the part of the officials
charged with enforcing the rule.” Williams v.
Fischer, 2010 WL 3910129, at *10 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 17,
2010) (citing Giano v. Senkowski, 54 F.3d 1050, 1057
(2d Cir. 1995)). Nevertheless, because a vagueness challenge
is essentially a due process challenge, a prisoner making